A Policy Wanted
Newark Daily Mercury, March 25, 1861
According to our despatches the abandonment of Fort Sumter has been ordered, and it is also intimated that Fort Pickens is nearly out of supplies. We are also informed that a peace policy is the order of the day and that nothing is to be done to exasperate or provoke our Southern brethren.—We presume our readers of all parties are thus recognizing the fact that the secession movement grows stronger with every passing day, and that the Confederate States threaten to become a de facto government.—It is useless to discuss whether this or that peculiar line of policy would have prevented such a result, where events are occurring which seem to foreshadow the success of the disunion projects. And it is not our design to blame the Government for the course that it is pursuing. We know that true and worthy men are at the head of public affairs, that they feel the responsibility resting upon them, that they are loyal in thought, word and deed to the whole Union, and that they must decide upon the policy to be pursued. But still we are not merely lookers on at this time; we are most deeply interested in the solution of the questions at issue. Our merchants and manufacturers have large interests at stake, our mechanics desire to know what prospect there is for procuring labor, and all are anxious that a distinct and positive line of policy should be enunciated.
Our merchants and manufacturers are friendly to a peace policy. The large indebtedness of the Cotton States cannot be met if they are obliged to sustain an army and navy, and consequently their creditors are anxious that a collision should be prevented. Beyond this they argue that a government of force is not consistent with a Constitutional Republic like ours, and that where any considerable portion withdraws the necessity should be admitted of acknowledging its independence. The most of our business men who are in constant intercourse and correspondence with the Cotton States ridicule the idea that there can be a reconstruction of the government. The tone of their correspondence is decided and positive that it is better for all parties to separate, that there will be more tolerance of each other's opinions apart than together, that the misunderstanding is too general to be rectified, and that the maintenance of peace will be easy when the causes of difference are removed by the separation. This view of the subject has not been one which has met our approval, but the course of the government evidently shows that its action is based upon it, and that it has eschewed any plans looking towards the contrary policy.
There were but two lines of action open to the administration of Mr. Lincoln upon its advent to power. One was to hold, occupy and possess the forts and property of the United States in the seceding States, to enforce the laws and maintain the constitution in all sections, and to collect the revenue alike in all the ports of the Union, no matter what expenditure or sacrifice it involved.—The other was to surrender the forts, omit the enforcement of the laws, avoid the collection of the revenue, and through some constitutional method acknowledge the independence of the Confederate States. To this last we are slowly but surely drifting under one pretext or another, and it is possible that it is necessary and inevitable. We think that the great body of the American people hoped for the preservation of the Union, and that they would have loyally adhered to it under any and every peril, but they can and will accommodate themselves to a condition of affairs which many believe unavoidable.
The worst possible course for the administration and the country is to attempt to blend the two distinct lines of action to which we have referred. A half-way demonstration of force only calculated to embitter and irritate, a partial holding of illy supplied fortresses, a mere threatening assertion of the right to collect the revenue, are all without vitality or statesmanship. The mere assertion of sovereignty without the attempt to maintain it will receive small respect at home or abroad. The positive action of the confederate States, the vigor with which they press their claims to consideration, the decision they manifest upon all disputed points, give them strength despite all that may be said. Should a separation ensue we must be content to lose our prestige abroad, and to fall into the rank of third rate nations. We shall be embarrassed with a frontier of doubtful fidelity, and we shall find our great rivers constant sources of difficulty and estrangement.—Time may remove this but the future hath small promise to him whose faith is an united heritage such as our fathers transmitted to their children.